First, do no harmThe government and doctors are in conflict because the laws governing medical services are being amended for the first time in 34 years. Doctors in the Seoul and Incheon area are to close their hospitals this afternoon to hold a protest rally to demand that the government withdraw the amendment. Serial protests are scheduled throughout the nation, and the biggest is expected on Sunday. With all the opposition, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been forced to announce the blueprint for the changes. People who remember the last dispute between the government and doctors, which closed hospitals when medical practices and pharmaceutical dispensing were separated eight years ago, are furious again.
Only a few articles in the law are at the heart of the dispute. In defining medical practices, the word “medicate” was left out in the law, doctors claim. They say it is one of their fundamental rights to give or not to give medicine to a patient. The physicians are also angry that the law, in defining the work of a nurse, gave them the right to “nurse and diagnose,” invading the territory of doctors.
The problem with the dogfight is that it does not originate from a desire to protect the rights of patients, but rather from the need to define the boundaries between doctors, pharmacists and nurses who are only interested in their profits. Conflicts among interest groups are unavoidable, but it is vital that the conflict should not be resolved and the gains and losses should not be calculated according to how strong the groups are or how skillful they are in pursuing their interests.
The government and related civil organizations met at least 10 times before preparing the revised bill. Among the 40 articles that are being changed, about 30 are in favor of the doctors. Nevertheless, doctors are asking for more, walking out of their consulting rooms and running into the streets to protest. This kind of conduct cannot win people’s sympathy. Doctors are among the so-called “elite.” The elite should try to accomplish their ideas in an elite way. A request for something must have legitimacy and rationality ― appropriate procedures are also needed.
Medical technologies, medicine, diseases and patients’ demands have changed and so should the law. A mature approach, to debate and produce a result, should be used by the doctors. The government also needs to work hard to lead the doctors to the discussion table. The only criterion for changing the law is whether the new system is beneficial to the people or not.